Highlights from speakers list:
District watchdog Chris Jackins pointed out that the sale of MLK, Jr. property gives buyers all the money. (Apparently the presumed buyers - First AME Church - is getting the money from the state and the state will give it to the district. This is because the church, in its offer, says it will be offering youth programming and other community activities.) The idea of selling it to First AME is to create a community center in that neighborhood that would offer community services like youth activities.
Then came a long line of people against the sale of the property to First AME. This was introduced and will be voted on by the Board in two weeks. Everyone spoke respectfully of the church's long history here in Seattle but the issue seems to be that
- their offer is less than half what Bush School was offering
- their proposal is vague with no outlining of what programs they will offer nor any letters of intent from other groups/sponsors
- other groups were only given 3 days to file a protest over the decision
- groups attending the Board Work Session on this decision were not allowed to give presentations and were forced to listen to the characterizations of the offers by a district lawyer. (This does seem odd because the best people to present are the bidders. Again, Harium says there is no real rule against anyone presenting at a Work Session. I think Special Ed parents should do this at the Wednesday work session.)
- that despite First AME's long history of outreach, some point out that their primary mission as a church is to create Christian believers. Some in the Madison Valley community say that as people of other faiths, they would not feel comfortable in community building run by a church.
- that this decision will have far-reaching ramifications for this neighborhood for decades
- why is SPS involving itself in social services
- lack of information on parking, security, traffic
Other speakers spoke on topics of supporting Family Support workers, budget reform, the overcrowding at Garfield (both the fire department and City sanitation have been contacted by the PTSA/ they also questioned why they have 18,19,20 year olds at Garfield as well as five Level 1 sex offenders), sustainable schools, and FERPA forms. I spoke on the Board resolution on the audit (which I feel is fairly weak and vague) .
Then came the Superintendent's presentations. This is where she announced that she had stepped down from the NWEA board.
Audit Response - Don Kennedy gave this report, saying they had visited Northshore district to see how they manage their district as well as going over the Washington State School Directors Association guidelines. He said that the school district's bond rating is still "AA" from Moody's. He also said there will be an audit page at the SPS website.
Enrollment - Rachel Cassidy, district demographer said enrollment is up a lot. She said it is up 684 students and that overall they have almost 1100 students more than last year.
On the one hand, this is a good problem because every student has money coming in to the building with him or her. On the other hand, it doesn't appear our district is ready to handle the extra students in an organized way.
She said enrollment was up in all grade levels but the big surprise was high school where they had predicted a decline. Interestingly, there was an increase at 1th and 12th grades which I might attribute to the economy.
Well, the district predicted that but I think some of us here knew that if people knew from their address which high school they were guaranteed, that more people would choose public high school.
She said MacDonald had 156 students (57K), Sand Point has 130 students (79K) and Queen Anne has 109 students (somehow I missed the number of K here).
Man, these are small schools. It's good we have an influx of money from new students because it is costing a lot to reopen these schools. We can't be running five under 200 student-sized schools for an extended period of time. And, we are going to take out more bonds to get the money faster to do the work needed at these buildings. (more on that later)
Other Enrollment items of interest:
- there are 14 kindergarteners with grandfathered sibs left; 13 at Lafayette and 1 at Stevens (and I note that many West Seattle folks said there would be issues if Cooper went away as a neighborhood school and it looks like they are right). Credit to Enrollment for doing everything they could to get these Ks and their sibs in the same school.
- Cleveland is still underenrolled but their numbers are slightly higher
- the worries over the enrollments being uneven at Madison/WSHS and Denny/Sealth appear to be unfounded as Ms. Cassidy reports enrollments are fairly even
Kay - Garfield has the biggest problem. She thinks some came from private schools. She stated she thought the number Garfield was built for was 1600. (Bill Martin from Facilities came forward to say that was the initial number but they "changed the scope and have flex spaces so the capacity is 1650.)
Sherry - said Lafayette, JSIS, Bryant and View Ridge are all bursting at the seams and there is a danger of "these programs being loved to death." Rachel replied that yes, there individual schools but they had to continue to think about these issues from a district view (meaning, I think, if you do anything for just one school, it would have consequences for others).
Betty - she expressed concern over all Garfield students have schedules. Dr. G-J said they all have full schedules. (Someone did say to me at the meeting that if we want to recruit effective teachers it might be good to not wait until the last minute as the district did for Garfield.)
Peter - asked if all 9th graders wanting STEM got in, Tracy Libros seemed to think the answer was yes.
Harium - asked if middle school trend of dropping down continued. Rachel said yes, it still went down but they have 50 more students than they projected.
Kay - asked about K-8 capacity and Rachel said of the 3 regular K-8s, none were over capacity.
Michael - thanked Rachel and Tracy, said it was a good problem to have higher enrollment. Then he said that the district knew Garfield would be higher in June and weren't ready in September. (I was rooting for him - "c'mon Michael, just say it!") But no, he stopped there. (I was hoping for a gentle, "We'd like to see that not happen again because of the difficulties it caused staff and parents." ) He did say that the Board is examining the WSS and looking for ways to serve schools and said it was a conversation to have with the Superintendent. He smiled at her as he said it but she didn't return his smile.
IT presentation - This was an important presentation by IT staff about getting virtual desktops where you don't have to replace the machines but it would put more stress on data storage. Jim Ratchford, head of IT, seems to think it will be worth it. (I believe this presentation is on-line and I'll try to find it.) They want to pilot this at some schools.
Amazingly enough, we still don't have an off-site data storage in case of failure at JS headquarters. That was in BTA III but I don't know where it will come in the line-up of things to get done.
Board Director Comments
Sherry mentioned the great turnout of the public event at Hamilton for their reopening. There were 1500 people there throughout the period of the event.
Peter Maier said he attended the legislative assembly for the state board directors. He reported that Core 24 is starting to look like Core 24 lite, reduced and modified to state funding. He said the state's economist said the funding is still going down and may not rise for another 1-2 years. He taught math at McClure for one hour and said it was fun but hard.
Betty has been visiting schools in her district.
Harium went to a conference for urban board directors in Baltimore and said it was one of the best conferences he had ever attended and he took copious notes. He said he wanted to share what he learned with the other directors. He also said that before the Work Session this coming Wednesday that he will be hosting a meeting with 40 people from throughout the world who are looking at public education in Seattle.
Kay talked (and talked) about a school in Aspen that is similar to Pathfinder.
After a brief break, there was a public hearing on the bonds that the district wants to buy in order to speed up the remodeling of the 5 reopening buildings. Anyone could testify so Chris Jackins and I did. I just pointed out that the language of the bonds puts the district on the hook for an expensive payout if the interest rates change substantially (this could happen to any bond but it is something to be aware of). I also pointed out that Roosevelt STILL does not have security cameras and that Meany may not have enough fire safety equipment. I said I understood the urgency of getting those reopened buildings done but safety first.
Chris pointed out that these bonds would have to be paid back from BOTH the capital and operating budgets which is very unusual. I have to wonder now if the district will regret getting these bonds.
Lastly, we all need to petition the Board to change the format of the meetings.
The main problem is that the Superintendent schedules 2-3 staff presentations and then the Board has to ask questions. I realize that those staff want to go home so that's why they go first but I think the answer is more Work Sessions. There are so many times when the audience is waiting for a particular vote that doesn't come for hours.
The business of the meeting should be the public testimony, Board comments, Superintendent comment and Intro and Action items (as well as Consent items but they go by fast). I think the staff presentations either need to be shorter with no questions (do all that at the Work Sessions).
I couldn't believe after two hours they hadn't gotten past page 1 of the agenda.